Art for Art’s Sake

Why are we neglecting our children’s creative needs?

Both Hands Stained — Lisa Fotios

Maslow didn’t say stop at the fourth rung. “Wait!” he cried, “I only put the top one in for a giggle. That self-actualisation stuff was just padding to get me over my word count for my final thesis”.

Our children are suffering from a lack of creative fulfilment which will undoubtedly impact on their adult lives. We are responsible for this neglect of our future generation and for allowing this situation to continue.

We’ve lost sight of what makes us human, the gift of imagination that consciousness gives us ‘enlightened’ beings to raise us above the level of a drone army serving the capitalist market leaders.

We’ve stopped valuing creativity in a qualitative way and, as a society, we have drifted towards a more quantitative valuation based on art as an investment.

We now purchase art based on how it will ‘hold its value’, and instead of being excited about which artists are ‘up and coming’, (partly so that we can show off our talent for spotting blossoming talent), we now seek out the ‘next big thing’ so that we can get in early and buy before the market price soars, and our ̶i̶n̶v̶e̶s̶t̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ piece of art can pay off the mortgage.

“For some collectors, art is being treated as a capital asset in their portfolio” — Evan Beard, U.S. Trust.

Some of the human race’s most intriguing and beautiful creative output has been shut away in a place that looks about as exciting as a closed down Best Buy warehouse on an industrial estate in the rear end of Telford.

There are reportedly over a million pieces of art hidden in a vault in Switzerland. Incredible examples of artistic and creative accomplishment from historical and contemporary masters that have been tucked away behind a metal lock, in a metal box, behind metal doors, enclosed by a metal fence, and accessed only by a metal gate. Welcome to the free ports.

Not what Rothko meant by ‘warehouse lighting’

Enter the Oracle (Wikipedia); Free economic zones (FEZ), free economic territories (FETs) or free zones (FZ) are a class of special economic zone (SEZ)… used to designate areas in which companies are taxed very lightly or not at all to encourage economic activity… Some special economic zones are called free ports… historically endowed with favorable customs regulations… In recent years the free port system has been accused of facilitating international art crime, allowing stolen artworks to remain undetected in storage for decades.

Artsy has a fascinating look at the potential murky role of the free ports in allowing works of art to exchange hands undetected, unvalued, and untaxed.

I find it horrible that art is just another investment.” — Kate Rothko Prizel MD, daughter of Mark;

And the free port in question; The Geneva Free Port. A massive rectangular box of art that I imagine to be like a Lock-n-Store of endless corridors with little codes stuck to each door to identify what treasures are hidden within. An index card stuck to the metal door with ‘Pikasso’ scrawled incoherently with a Sharpie.

“It is estimated that there were more than 1.2 million pieces of art in the Geneva Free Port alone, some of which had not left the buildings in decades.” — Swiss Audit, via NYT

But maybe I’m perverting creativity as something to be shared? A collective experience whereby creativity is produced for the benefit of society instead of the individual?

My pain so far seems to be centred around the act of concealing art from public consumption. Art which is valuable – and although I find the monetary value a challenging and complicating factor in this tale, value extends far beyond the pound and dollar.

What if there was more art available than there was gallery space in which to share it?

At New York’s Museum of Modern Art, 24 of 1,221 works by Pablo Picasso in the institution’s permanent collection can currently be seen by visitors. — BBC

What if art is not for sharing? What if the role of art galleries is to store for academic and historical use as opposed to public display?

The Tate shows about 20% of its permanent collection. The Louvre shows 8%, the Guggenheim a lowly 3% and the Berlinische Galerie — a Berlin museum whose mandate is to show, preserve and collect art made in the city — 2% of its holdings. — BBC

What if the free ports are not the problem, and I too am falling into the trap of viewing art as the finished product — and not the process?

What if we go back to self-actualisation and the creative process being pivotal in the higher-level developmental stages of our children?

Every morning I wake up, adjust my eyes to the light, stretch, check I’m still alive, and wonder how long I can get away with being awake before A) the dog hears me and whines for her breakfast, B) the children hear me and whine for their breakfast, or C) my bladder notices that I’m up. It’s usually C, which when in tandem with the creaky floorboard that I keep meaning to fix — in turn, causes A and C.

Somewhere in that little quiet moment 5 minutes before the alarm clock goes off (yeah thanks, body clock for anticipating that every morning) There’s a little voice inside me that I hear every morning, it’s got one of those motivational American accents that sit firmly on the borderline between inspiring and annoying.

The little American voice inside my head has to shout everything like a fitness instructor à la Mr Motivator circa 1993.

“Do you want to be a consumer or a producer today, Melon Farmer?”

“Do you want to consume a product or create one? Do you want to read a book or write one?

Art is about creating something for the sake of being creative.

Art is drawing patterns and words and stick-men in the sand on the beach — only for them to be erased by the next wave or the next tide.

Art is the pictures brought home from nursery and school made with potatoes, broad brushstrokes, lino print, batik, watercolour, stippling, and other techniques that you learn machinegun style; bam bam bam from one lesson to the next.

Art is that piece of paper that is stuck proudly to the front of the Gallery d’Refrigerator until next week’s masterpiece is mounted in its place.

Art can be temporary — hell, maybe art should be created to be temporary or with no temporal length in mind. Its longevity is something that becomes based purely on how much other people love to share in its delights once published or made available to a broader public.

Photo - Sharon McCutcheon

I believe that we need to get back to making art for the sake of making art.

We need to work on our mental health in a preventative manner, not just with a curative approach.

Let’s stop cutting arts funding and please can we stop prioritising English, Maths, and Science in favour of the humanities and arts. Why is it either or?

The whole point of comprehensive education is for it to be comprehensive. A general certificate of education is a certificate in general education — one that should be balanced across academic and vocational subjects; an education which gives our kids a taster of the whole range of subjects and possibilities out there for them.

Let the children be creative and let the process be the goal not the output. Let us use the word create more than the finished product creation.

If we keep reducing our children down to standardised numbers on matrices of league tables without looking at the added value that our educators are bringing, then we have failed as self-actualised beings.

We have failed and neglected our children by depriving them of their creative needs to achieve a higher purpose in life. Let them create art for the sake of creating art.